A good friend and old colleague of mine was getting married in Tuscany at the end of May. A good opportunity to add some extra days to the event and tour around some of the region i thought.
I flew into Pisa and took the shuttle train into the town center, it stops right next to main train station. I had booked an AirBnB which was only a few minutes walk from the leaning tower. After finding my accomodation i went for a walk to get my bearings of the city. I didn’t want to see the leaning tower as i had two full days in Pisa and so wanted to see it another day to give me something to do. As i turned a corner i saw a big archway in a stone wall and intrigued i walked through it. There in front of me was the wonkiest building i had ever seen. Damn – i had found it.
The leaning tower was firmed up a few years ago so it no longer gets any worse – its just always going to be at the same angle forever more. Apparantly around 4 degrees. You can pay to go up it but the queue was long and i think you may need to pre-book to ensure you get a ticket.
The leaning tower is actually dwarfed by the impressive cathederal next to it –
The city of Pisa is divided east to west by the river Arno –
Whilst staying with my AirBnB hosts they told me about a place on the coast not far from Pisa, easily accessible by train. It was described as a smaller version of the Amalfi coast. The place is called Cinque Terre and is a series of five small coastal villages built into the rugged coastline. Cinque Terre is yet another UNESCO World heritage site, apparantly there are more sites in Italy than any other country !! The five villages consist of – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. All are accessible by a train than runs between all the villages. The main train from Pisa to La Spezia takes about an hour. If you are feeling fit you can hike between some of them high up in the steep slopes. Some of the hikes are ninety minutes or more so be careful as its blisteringly hot here at times.
I started at the furthest village first Monterosso, this was the odd one out as it had a sandy beach beach . Its actually two villages really as there is the old town and a new town.
Next stop was the town of Vernazza. This has the only real harbour out of the five villages. The buildings are tall and very colourful, its amazing how many properties they can squeeze into such a small space.
The middle of the five villages is Corniglua. If you arrive by train then you have to climb the 365 steps (one for each day of the year) to reach the top. Or you could wait for the bus.
Corniglua is the oldest and smallest village of Cinque Terre –
It was hot and very busy – time for a break. You can’t go to Italy and not enjoy the fabulous gelato available from virtually every street corner !!
When you arrive by train into Manarola you may have to go underground from the platform to get into the town. This place has no beach or harbour so it’s all perched on the rocks next to the sea.
Last but not least was the town of Riomaggiore. Built into a very narrow crevice it has plenty more colourful buildings !You can see all five villages in one day if you start early and use the train. But be warned it gets VERY busy ! It was only May but by mid morning it was already getting very busy so what its like in July/ August i wouldn’t like to think.
You could easily spend a few days here and enjoy the hikeing and maybe stay in every village for a night to get a real feel for the place. I got the train back to Pisa and back to my AirBnB, it had been a long, hot day.
My time in Pisa was up so i returned to the airport to get my hire car. I headed south east and visited the 13th century medieval town of San Gimignano. in the province of Siena. This Italian hill top town is encircled by these high walls.
It is known for its skyline which features many medieval towers –
I drove through the area known as Val D’Orcia , a very picturesque area of Tuscany, on my way to see Monticchiello. Monticchiello is another medieval town but much smaller then San Gimignano.
Monticchiello is a lovely town to visit if you want some peace and quiet. There were hardly any tourists and it mainly seemed to be residential. There were only a couple of places to eat one of which was just outside the stone walls.
My evening stop was next to Lake Trasimeno in the center of Italy west of Perugia. It is the fourth largest fresh water lake in Italy. I had booked another AirBnB and was drawn in by the photos showing a fantastic view from the terrace. It certainly lived up to my expectations with a great view from the room and also from the large terrace where you can have breakfast. The family owned house was recently renovated, it was nice that the house had been kept in the same family as it was built by the current owners father. It had to be one of the best AirBnBs i have stayed at, great value and just look at that view !! There will also be a pool to use in the summer months. Francesco and his wife made me feel very welcome, i wish i could have stayed for longer.
Lake Trasimeno –
You can have breakfast either on your own balcony outside your room or on the main balcony –
Sunset over Lake Trasimeno –
I left Lake Trasimeno as i had to head back into the heart of Tuscany for the wedding in Il Castagno. On the way back was the town of Cortona, yet another medieval hill top town !!
Always great views from these hill top towns !!
Cortona is famed for its steep narrow streets.
It was a quick visit to Cortona as i needed to find my accomodation in Il Castagno. Only a couple of hours drive through the Tuscany countryside was my accomodation for the next 3 nights. A converted farm house made into seperate villas with a communal pool outside.
Just what i needed as the weather was hot, hot, hot !!
It was a nice but all too short break in Tuscany. You could spend days just driving around and admiring the countryside and views. You will of course find many, many medieval hill top towns to stop and admire so i don’t think you really need to plan which to see.
Arrivederci Italy !!